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admin | How To Get Your Guy Back | 08.07.2014
I was driving home from the 2010 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, the two-lane blacktop of Route 22 South stretching out in front of me. While I tend to invest a lot in the psychology of the farm lifestyle, Susan sees things in more practical terms. Susan counts her blessings when it come to the education she got in her small-town high school. But what good fortune to have this unusual talent in the middle of the cornfields that my teacher and friend Alan Jacobsen was able to provide this unusual kind of encouragement and understanding. Susan also recalled: a€?My high school piano teacher would record all the Marion McPartland shows and give me cassettes of them. Susan went to college at the University of Iowa and received a bachelora€™s degree in voice. While she was at Temple, she played jazz piano in nightclubs and restaurants to make ends meet. After seeing Nancy Griffith in concert at a club in Philadelphia, she came to the realization that writing and singing songs based on personal experience was a perfectly valid way to expend her musical talent. She surfaced again and again through the a€?90s, always giving a dynamic, thrilling performance.
In 2004, she released the first of her a€?themeda€? projects, I Cana€™t Be New, which drew on her experience with pop standards. This got her the aforementioned appearance on the Marian McPartland show and also, brings us to the issue of her ingrained sense of humor. The most recent of Susana€™s projects, Classics, takes pop songs and weds them to classical themes.
When I remarked about the impressive diversity in her songwriting a€?projects,a€? and not playing it safe, she expressed appreciation. When I made comparisons to the diverse approaches Ia€™ve used as a visual artist (drawing, painting), her emotional core showed its strength.
In parting, I mentioned that it seemed as if her audiences were bigger and more appreciative these days.
Susan has a strong connection to her audienceA  and looks forward to interaction with them. Sometimes, and sometimes it stays as smooth as a round diamond dropped from another planet, more beautiful and precious than you remembered. This morning I went out to feed Sally and Bob but I couldna€™t find the scoop for the new sack of oats.
Last night on the radio I heard Slim Frye had been killed, in a car crash in West Texas, and the Reno DJ played several of his songs as I remembered his red Porsche rushing past the sage and leaving the trail of fancy dresses and guitar before I found her walking alone in high heels along the desert road. That first night after the chicken dinner Jodie madea€”after Ia€™d joked, a€?So wea€™re going to be famous?a€? and Jodie had turned over my palm and showed me our hands were the same, the little star where the life and heart lines meta€”we went out into the summer yard. I carried the lawn chairs from under the dusty branches of the cottonwood and Jodie sat back, looking up at the sky while I played the guitar and we sang the songs Jodie was sure would change our lives and those of a million strangers. A a€?Then she was quiet, temporarily calm about our budding career as sure-fire country stars. Jodie gazed at the scattered distant stars, as if her real home was a distant world and on Earth she was a stranger. There was hurt, a private bitterness in her voice, and I felt a sudden wave of sympathy for the woman Ia€™d known since noon. The different stars blinked white and red, blue and green, and I remembered by its color you could tell a stara€™s age, whether it was young and new or dying, burning out, though I couldna€™t remember what colors showed youth or age, birth or death. I pulled out clean sheets and pillowcases from the hall cabinet, and Jodie took them from me and there was a second of awkwardness as our hands brushed.
She sounded wistful, as if she were fighting a future disappointment or regret, but then shea€™d had a long day that could have turned scary. Then she went into my parentsa€™ old room and closed the door and I shut off all the lights and lay back in bed, looking up through the dusty screen at the sky beyond the cottonwood.
As I closed my eyes I remembered the touch of her fingernail as she traced my palm that was like her own, that her mother had read when Jodie was a girl, telling her that someday shea€™d sing for the President. In jeans, Western shirt and boots, and her hair pulled back, Jodie was cooking pancakes at the stove. In the morning light at the window we ate pancakes with hot syrup and bacon and drank our coffee among circling, rising red and gold dust motes.
She stood at the sink with her back turned, humming a€?Current of Lovea€? as I got up to go out to the barn.
I had one horse saddled when she came through the barn door with something wrapped in one of my mothera€™s old blue plaid tablecloths. Jodie dug her heels in sharply and the mare bolted past Bob before I could grab the bridle, galloping down the road past the house. We raced across the high pasture toward the creek and Jodie beat me by ten yards as we reined in. We crossed the shallow ditch and trotted across the pasture toward the dry hills that came down in spread fingers. With Jodie in the lead we took a game trail up the spine of the longest hill until we reached the high wall of mountain. We let the horses pick their way up the steep broken slope, through rock and manzanita toward the pines along the ridge. Jodie pointed toward the far edge of the pasture, at the lone pine and the small square of iron picket fence with white stones inside.
We started the circuit of the bowl, moving in and out of the scattered line of pines on the curved narrow mesa. I held Jodiea€™s hand as we walked gingerly across the twenty yards of arrow chippings and splintered fallen rock. She turned, squinting as she looked back at the bed of glittering shards.a€?a€?a€?They knew this place,a€? Jodie said. I took her other hand and we crossed the carpet of glass, then rode on, looking east away from the valley, toward the broken buttes and towers beyond the mesa. We rode on for half an hour, following the valley side of the ridge, until I saw the big Jeffrey pine.
We sat down and Jodie served the chicken and the mashed potatoes shea€™d fried in cakes onto paper dishes. We rode a mile the way we came, not talking, Jodie a few yards in front of me, until I found an easy slope.
I stopped among the cottonwoods where the water bubbled up and pooled behind the stone weir before it curled down the creek bed.
I remembered Slim Fryea€™s red Porsche as now Jodie stood, looking at the trees that circled the pool. I walked in, feeling the shock of the pure cold pool, and dived, pulling down through the strong upwelling water. Gold specks drifted down like dust, past the three bright slanting bars that always looked like searchlights hunting for treasure.


I treaded, looking over at the cottonwood as Jodie stepped out in a white lace bra and panties.
Then she made a quick dive with fingers and toes gracefully together, came up saying a€?Brrrrrra€? like a kid and working her shoulders in a shiver, then breast-stroked out toward the middle. Under her excitement Jodie was breathing unevenly, splashing a little raggedly at the water. I leaned down and didna€™t know Jodiea€™s sweet scent from the crushed sweetness of the grass as I felt her shoulder for the thin strap. Holding Jodie as we made love in the valley where I was born, I felt everything Ia€™d held back for so long give way and rise like our bodies in the river rushing from the rock toward the sunlit water and the speckled shadows of the shifting leaves. We glided forward underwater, kicked up, took a breath, turned and stroked down through the green light to the open door that whispers things and glints with quartz from the dark walls beyond it. I went down to the bank and slipped into my clothes and boots, then walked back and picked up Boba€™s reins from the grass, leading him over to Sally. A Then she was quiet, temporarily calm about our budding career as sure-fire country stars. She turned, squinting as she looked back at the bed of glittering shards.a€?They knew this place,a€? Jodie said.
From the wide trunk I lifted the tin dipper from its nail, ran it through the water, then dipped it full and handed it to Jodie. There may be a stronger sense of purpose, a drive to overcome any obstacle, an unshakeable emotional center. As she recalls, a€?My older brother learned guitar from Sister Marie Claire of the Franciscan nuns of Saint Marya€™s Chapel School in Manchester, Iowa. If you have parents who enjoy what you do, you will never stop doing it for your entire life. When pressed further, she distilled the varying elements of a rural personality for me this way: a€?Other people who grew up in the countryside, people Ia€™ve met who grew up on farms or ranchesa€¦ therea€™s a practicality to those people, a straightforwardness, a plainspokenness that I find really wonderful. Afterward, she moved to Philadelphia and earned a mastera€™s degree in voice at Temple University.
She had a gig every Friday night at the Pen & Pencil club (an after-hours Journalista€™s club) The man who ran it, Ron Patel, wanted to have a a€?Chantoosiea€? in the corner.
Alan Pepper, owner of the Bottom Line saw as much as I did, and more, and created the Bottom Line record label, of which Susan was the first to be signed.
She wrote an entire album of her own Cole Porter-like songs, utilizing her considerable chops as a pianist and guitarist, her razor-sharp lyrics and her muscular vocals.
I like somebody who can turn a phrase, who can put words together in a way you cana€™t see coming.
I searched Eddiea€™s Attic online and found that Susan was playing during my visit, so I bought two tickets. She became became interested in the project after attending the Chicago Gospel Music Festival.
There are some songs where shea€™s a lot more generously hopeful about religious practices that many of us disillusioned lapsed practitioners would be. Then, with mock seriousness, she said, laughing, a€?I really feel bada€¦ theya€™ll throw me in the grave, saying, a€?Well she took that all too far.
She said, a€?a€?When you see someone over the course of a career and they always have something to bring to an audience, youa€™ve got to respect that. You realize that the wonder hasna€™t faded, cracked or turned to dust, even when you set it down and stare at your empty palm like a Ghost Dancer whoa€™s returned from heaven and awakened.
From a shelf I lifted an old baking soda tin and inside was Jodiea€™s shiny black ball of obsidian shea€™d kept under her pillow. When wea€™d brought in the groceries from town shea€™d found the pile of lyrics on the table and later taken up my guitar while I was out irrigating the pasture. I figured Jodie had her ghosts, Slim Frye the most recent, and suddenly I felt both innocent and lucky, grateful for my unsuccessful but slender love life.
I held the screen door and followed her in to the house that smelled sweet, of night air crossing grass.
We said good night, Jodie thanking me for putting her up until Johnny Blacka€™s band came to Waverly in two weeks, me thanking her for dinner and liking my music. Ia€™d dreamed about the Branding Iron in Waverly, where once a week I played at Amateur Night. The audience stood and swayed, clapping time, and Jodie and I stood side-by-side, each playing a guitar like the one Jodiea€™d lost. It felt exciting, strange and good, having a woman in the house singing your song to herself as the day began.
It had a soft curve, like it had just cooled and hardened after bubbling up from the center of the Earth. We had quite a ride.a€? Wea€™d ridden five or six miles, climbed right up the slope of the bowl to the top. I turned on my back, looking up at the blue sky beyond the branches, listening to the needles move in the soft breeze. She stood up and I wrapped the containers and empty plates in the tablecloth and pushed it into the saddlebag.
We went down through broken ground to a bluff, then through the white grass to the east pasture and across it toward the line of trees.
I gripped the stone edge of the dark square-ish door, then turned, looking up toward the froth rising toward the light. I let go, leaning into the current, and with a kick and one arm-stroke let the water take me straight to the surface. I gripped the rocka€™s edge and looked back to see Jodie pulling hard against the current, moving down through the column of light, her long hair yellow now and flowing out behind her. With a kick she rose up, her shapely slim hips and legs and feet slipping from the darkness that turned green and then lighter green and finally yellow.
Jodie swam up close and I put my hands on her waist, turning her back to me, then with my feet pushed off from the rock, lifting her out and up into the rush of water and letting her go.
I went to Sally and took out the tablecloth from the saddlebag, setting the leftover food and plates at the foot of the tree. We held hands, moved out into the pushing water, and together drifted without kicking to the surface.
The sun hung above the western ridge, shining at a lowering angle across the valley, and a quicker breeze stirred the flashing two-colored willows. Bob and Sallya€™s hooves hit sharply against the road and the man and woman who would sing a€?Travis Jacksona€? to millions and the foolish President and like a stone cut in half to show its pretty crystals would never be the same started toward the yellow house by the cottonwood. I was passing through farmland, marvelling at the quiet beauty of corn rows, of the silos that peeked out from beyond them, and the stately, weathered white of the homes and barns. Case in point: A musically gifted girl raised on an isolated hog farm in Manchester, Iowa, surrounded by a loving, supportive family.
Alan Jacobsen was a Buddy Rich-type drummer working as a music teacher at the Manchester High School.


Ia€™d hear Marian McPartland talking to this one, or that one a€” Oscar Peterson a€” and listen to how they did it.
He said to her, a€?I have this picture of a rummy bar, so go over in the corner and sing something and play something.a€? Susan bought Gershwin and Cole Porter songbooks and enlarged her repertoire of standards. Somewhere around the time that her third album, Last of the Good Straight Girls was released (1995), maybe a little before, I saw her play live, at the now-defunct Bottom Line nightclub in NYC. The next album, on that label Time Between Trains might contain the most of my favorites in her repertoire. When she cradles that song in her big voice, it becomes a call to find every woman who has ever been mistreated and do battle for her. For me, there has always been a discrepancy between what religion professes to be and what its practitioners actually are. In another interview, she states: a€?There is a religious left that is stepping up and into the fore and has a real case to make in making this country a better place.
Therea€™s nothing more to be gained from thata€” unless you feel the need to show of and have people clap for you, which is kind of pathetic.
They choose wisely, the prioritize wisely and theya€™re giving people something very, very real. I felt that she noticed, sensed the electric tension in my open, down-turned hands that would spark if they touched her.
I lifted the saddlebag and walked over under the tree, kicking a few cones from a cool bed of needles. She threw me a quick look and turned forward as we raced across the grass as far as the dirt road, where Bob pulled even and we brought up the horses. The girl blossoms as a musician whose talent usually dwarfs those around her and leaves audiences enthralled. When you grow up and therea€™s your corn out in the field and here comes the hail storm and there goes your seasona€¦ therea€™s an acceptance of things beyond your control that in a healthy way counteracts neuroses. Her version of the title track, performed live these days, with Trina Hamlin on harmonica and percussion (Natalia Zuckerman on slide at certain shows) is one of the most thrilling concert experiences I can recall in years. A well-written comedy song can hang around for a long time, but it takes more effort and it takes more brains. Shea€™d taken a hard fall the day before and had to gather her clothes and fancy red shoes from the sage and tumbleweeds. Under the cerulean blue of the sky, with clouds like cotton pulled apart, floating in tufts, there were no people in evidence.
I also think that the best songs contain things that people dona€™t say, people cana€™t say, people are afraid to say.
In all that quiet beauty, I could not help pondering the delicate, sometimes brutal, sometimes violent contract made between the farmer and nature. Thata€™s all I wanted him to do.a€? Her brother played in the folk mass and then, Susan followed suit.
Thata€™s a great gift, because they didna€™t need to express themselves through our success in the arts.
A small town in rural Iowa, that you would have a high school band teacher who had a phenomenal amount of jazz talent. Later, while promoting her album of self-penned a€?standards,a€? I Cana€™t Be New, released in 2004, Susan appeared on Mariana€™s show.] She continued, a€?That played a role and, years later, there I am, on the Marian McPartland show! When I told her of this, she responded, a€?Give me a room of 200 people or less, and wea€™re gonna have a good time. People like Greg Brown and Richard Thompson, who stay true to it, who always find something new to say, and new ways to do it. When you make your own entertainment, if you have music around the housea€¦ You might wind up playing your instrument longer, you might wind up actually practicing, you might wind up experimenting with it. Pretty rare, because most music teachers, most band directors at the high school level, are all about the marching band. Everything else dwindles in comparison.a€? If religion has something to offer society outside of individual comfort in our darkest hours, that would be it.
Songwriting requires a commitment to doing it and not getting it right for a long timea€¦ expecting it all to work right away is a mistake in any endeavor.
Thata€™s what theya€™re supposed to doa€¦ keep those kids marching, keep them organized, doing something as a group. You have to give yourself a long runway to take offa€¦like a big plane,a€? she said, laughing. They really want to be surprised, engaged, a little scared or uncomfortablea€¦ or deeply moveda€¦ or surprised at how deeply moved they are. He sent me home with some Count Basie records, some Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, Carmen McRae, some Sarah Vaughn.
Thata€™s where all discovery is at.a€? She has also tried ballet and a few other disciplines outside her comfort zone. Then you wona€™t be bored.a€™ [laughs] Thata€™s the first obligation of a show that it not be boring!
Then you wona€™t be bored.a€™ [laughs] Thata€™s the first obligation of a show that it not be boring!A  If I want boring, I can stay at home and put on background music and vacuum! This really tilted my head - a€?What is THIS?a€? I worked on jazz chords that I heard on the records, from, like, Freddy Green Style Guitar Comping [a book on swing rhythm strumming]. A  I learned something from every man I met or exchanged emails with, and Lou taught me a few words in Spanish.A  Ole! We can take a little walk, maybe get our feet wet, and then lie on a blanket and listen to the waves. I do the same thing myself, when the mood strikes.A  And how about this for being an "in tune with women" kinda guy?A  A few days after I had ordered myself 2 new green dresses and several in black to add to my collection from a mail order company named Newport News, he sent an email asking:A  "So, what are you wearing right now?
A  For Christ Sake!!A  How about saving the Taxpayers a buck?A  In addition to that $6 million you've already blown by hovering and covering me, and scheduling a proper Face to Base meeting in your office; at my convenience? Dramatic, but no drama.A  Short black skirt, or long black dress?A  Heels or boots?A  Camo, or commando? Until then, as in the end,there is much more to come.A A A  Once Upon a Time, a little mushroom popped through the moss covered ground of the Southeast Alaska Rainforest. Grant, Attorney at Law, Juneau, AK From Wedding Bells to Tales to Tell: The Affidavit of Eric William Swanson, my former spouse AFFIDAVIT OF SHANNON MARIE MCCORMICK, My Former Best Friend THE AFFIDAVIT OF VALERIE BRITTINA ROSE, My daughter, aged 21 THE BEAGLE BRAYS! HELL'S BELLS: THE TELLS OF THE ELVES RING LOUD AND CLEAR IDENTITY THEFT, MISINFORMATION, AND THE GETTING THE INFAMOUS RUNAROUND Double Entendre and DoubleSpeak, Innuendos and Intimidation, Coercion v Common Sense, Komply (with a K) v Knowledge = DDIICCKK; Who's Gunna Call it a Draw?



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